Monthly Archives: March 2011

Adventures In Self-Publishing: Or, No One Told Me Writing Was The Easy Part

So, I had written this perfectly fine novel, “Soldier’s Joy”. Sent out the query letters and sample chapters to agents and publishers, then waited for the accolades and contracts to come in. It was a long wait. What came back were politely worded notes that said, in essence, “Thanks. But no thanks.”

Seems that no one in publishing thought my story of two brothers caught up in a hunt for vengeance against the backdrop of the chaos of the end of the Civil War in Texas and the true-life robbery of the state treasury in 1865 was of sufficient interest or desire. Really. My wife, Ginny, suggested I should have added some werewolves or zombies. But she can be cynical at times.

What to do, what to do? The Wall Street Journal, of all places came to the rescue with an article on the coming boom in ebooks and self-publishing.  No longer simply a venue for vanity publishing of someone’s recollections of wartime service as a supply sergeant at Fort Forgotten or tender memories of life on a chicken ranch in Iowa, self-publishing had become a part of the digital social movement. More sales of ebooks were being registered than conventional print books, the Journal reported, or something like that. I stopped reading after the part about the array of publishing outlets, from Amazon to Lulu.com to Apple, putting out ebooks. The result was that publishing, like news reporting, had suddenly taken a tectonic shift from the corporations to the people. That had a nice ring to it. I’d give it a try.

I opted for Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (now Kindle Direct Publishing) for two reasons: It didn’t cost me a dime and you could opt for the heftier royalty. [Digression: My goal was get a novel published, not rake in lots of dollars. But a bigger royalty? No brainer. I might add that my low expectations of sales has been has been validated.]

The process was simple enough. You upload your manuscript in the appropriate format – Word Doc, in this case – and, voila, it’s an ebook, available in the Kindle format.  You determine how much to charge and KDP handles the bookkeeping. Easy. Too easy, at it turns out. My wife, the editor, read the manuscript after I’d published and found a terrifying number of typos.

[True Confession Break: I don’t self-edit well. I always figured that’s what editors were for. Ginny, who toiled in newspapers as a editor for many years, disagrees. But I digress.]

Correcting the errors was simple enough. Just upload the amended manuscript to Kindle Direct Publishing and it’s born anew. And my apologies to anyone who got the error-prone version.

This worked so well, I thought, why not a paperback? That was available through another Amazon subsidiary, CreateSpace.com. This wasn’t so simple. The manuscript must first be formatted in one of several paperback sizes and submitted as a PDF.  I don’t work well with Word, it seems. Such simple matters as keeping the type font consistent throughout the manuscript and getting headers with the page numbers and book title to stay at the top of the damn page were frustratingly difficult. Huge gaps in the text would suddenly appear.  CreateSpace lets you do it yourself – or you can have their experts help in the layout, the cover art & formatting of the book for a sliding fee. Next time, I pay.

You upload the completed manuscript, then wait a few days for  your  proof (which costs about $8, including shipping) to be mailed to you. And you find that page 52 has gaps in the text like an e.e. cummings’ poem. And the headers dropped again. So you order another proof and wait. Finally, after the 8th read-through, the book looks good and you give CreateSpace the OK to publish. Which they do overnight. You find your book on Amazon, just like a real author. And you can watch your literary marvel register 1,322,924 on Amazon’s “Top Seller” list.

Marketing! No one told me about marketing. In self-publishing, you are, well, the publisher. Writing, isn’t enough. You have to be marketer, seller and distributor of said literary wonder. It’s much harder than it sounds. Trust me on this.

It’s still a struggle. I am slowly learning how to use Twitter & Facebook to annoy friends and followers to get the word out about ‘Soldier’s Joy.’ Developing word-of-mouth, we call it. Which reminds me, check out my Amazon page here to learn more about ‘Soldier’s Joy.’  You won’t regret it. Have I ever steered you wrong?

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